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Animals hold grudges? Meet the Antarctic birds who can specifically recognize humans they don't like


Antarctic birds

(NaturalNews) Holding a grudge might seem like a very human concept – but it seems that the brown skua bird doesn't let things go either. This particular species of bird lives in Antarctica and doesn't have a lot of contact with people – and yet, when researchers from South Korea were stationed there, they made an amazing discovery.

The scientists observed that despite the birds having very limited exposure to humans, they were able to tell the difference between humans that had been too close to their nest (and were therefore a risk to their chicks) and humans that had kept their distance. As reported by Popular Science, the skua birds were seen to attack humans that had previously been near their nests even several days later when they were far away from where the nest was located – remembering and recognizing different people.

These aren't the only birds that hold a grudge

According to The New York Times, skua birds are not the only species that recognizes humans. It seems that crows, magpies, ravens and jays have developed cross-species social skills that enable them to thrive around humans and in busy urban areas. Crows are well-known for their intelligence and are thought to understand cause and effect better than human six-year-olds, recognizing names and discriminating between different volumes of water.

Researchers in Seattle have found that crows can recognize different people by their faces, after carrying out a study using two different masks – one designated as "dangerous" and worn when trapping crows, and one "neutral." The scientists discovered that even when someone wearing the "dangerous" mask was merely walking around and not bothering the crows at all, the birds remembered the face. As reported by The New York Times, "researchers hypothesize that crows learn to recognize threatening humans from both parents and others in their flock."

So what's so special about skua birds?

This bird hasn't had much time to get up close and personal with human beings. It lives in a remote location and is definitely not exposed to humans on a regular basis in the way that crows have been. Skua birds have only been in contact with people since the first research stations were set up in Antarctica, which started sporadically back in the 1890s and increased in number after the 1950s.

But researchers have found that when they tested the reaction of skua birds to both "nest intruders" and "neutral" people, the birds had very clear reactions. The test was quite similar to the one undertaken in Seattle with crows. The researchers first walked in pairs, one "nest intruder" and one "neutral" before then walking in opposite directions. When they split up, all seven pairs of the local skua birds focused on the "nest intruder," attacking this person and leaving the "neutral" one completely alone.

According to Won Young Lee from the Korea Polar Research Institute, as reported by Popular Science, "it is amazing that brown skuas, which evolved and lived in human-free habitats, recognized individual humans just after 3 or 4 visits. It seems that they have very high levels of cognitive abilities."

Whilst researchers are not yet sure what it is about the "nest intruders" that the birds were remembering, they hypothesize that the birds remember and react strongly to visual cues. Further research is underway to gain greater understanding of these amazing birds.

Sources include:

PopSci.com

NaturalNews.com

NYTimes.com

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